Randy Plowe displaying one of the creations of his stained glass business.
PHOTO: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
The following are business startups that readers established after reading articles in MOTHER EARTH NEWS.
Stained Glass Business
When my son Randy read Jo Frohbieter Mueller's article,
"Stained Glass" (MOTHER NO. 48, page 74), he rapidly
developed a keen interest in the art form. Beginning by
traveling to a studio 25 miles away for private lessons, he
brought home books, equipment, and sheets of stained glass
His initial investment was $70, of which $50 went for tools
and $20 for glass.
Randy's first effort was a crude but identifiable butterfly
given as a Mother's Day gift. Later, his mom's birthday
was brightened by a gaily colored glass pattern which
now hangs in the laving room window.
Our son was learning by trial and error—and actually
breaking more glass than he used—when
something happened that changed his hobby into a career. He
was invited to teach the art at the local community
college. Well, Randy sat down and read all the books he had
borrowed but laid aside in his eagerness to get to work.
Then he went on to consume every volume on the subject in
the public library. Finally, he traveled to a large supply
house where experts in the craft gave him
additional help and information. After that trip,
his glass creations were made more rapidly and became much
larger and more beautiful. And they began selling!
Now, Randy's been established in his own studio, "Glass of
Past", for nearly a year ... where he creates, sells, and
teaches the art he loves. His opening inventory of $2,500
has already increased to $7,000, and he has hired an
assistant and has rented space to two other
craftspersons. Randy charges $30 to $50 per square foot for
his finished pieces and has recently completed an order for
$4,000 worth of windows.
After two very poor olive harvests cut into the spending
money we'd been able to earn from our little farm over here
in Greece, I was happy to read Carol Clivio's article, "Fashions From Old Ties" which
describes and illustrates the attractive items she creates
out of the castoff pieces of silk. With Carol's ideas in
mind, I was able to hatch my own little business.
My available horde of scraps consisted not of silk ties,
but of wool vests and pullovers that have been too severely
moth-chewed to be of any conventional use. I collect the
garments, dozens at a time, by posting signs in bakeries,
where the Northern Grecian islanders see them and respond
willingly. Then I unravel the sweaters and remake the yarn
into caps, waistcoats, and jackets in the same styles as
those worn in ancient Greece! I also add a little extra
touch, when preparing each of these new/old items for sale,
by including a hand-calligraphed description of the
article ... in French, German, English, and Greek.
So far I've had to make no investment in my business (other
than four to five hours a week of my time). The sweaters I
unravel and knit again are free, and I already owned all
the knitting needles and crochet hooks I could possibly use
when I began this venture. There isn't even any
out-of-pocket transportation cost: My husband and I load
the garments aboard the handmade sailboat we've had for 13
years and let the wind carry us to market ... or, to
visit neighboring villages on our own island, I simply ride
The profit isn't great—about $150 a month—but there's no
overhead and what we do earn makes it possible for us to
afford the books and gadgets we read about in MOTHER
Firewood Storage Box Business
Maine winters can be bitter cold, but—as a born
Down-Easter—I wouldn't live anywhere else! However, to
stay here and survive economically, a homesteader has to be
either rather wealthy or extremely resourceful. (My family
and I have always been the latter of the two!)
During the winter we plan for busier seasons, making
lists of what to plant, repair, replace, or build. And we
search and scheme for ways to make an extra dollar. Well,
while "sharpening our brains" this past year—having
ingested "Wood-Burner Restoration," which set us thinking about stove
accessories—Bill and I ran across an article on
woodbox designs and knew we'd found the idea we
That's how we started building firewood storage chests.
Bill handcrafts the attractive fuel holders, and I decorate
them with vegetable dyes and stains.
Our original investment was approximately $58: $30 for
wood, $8.00 for screws and hardware, and about $20 in
advertising and marketing costs. Now, our creations sell
for $100+, depending on the model and the shipping cost,
and our earnings range between $700 and $1,400 a week.
We're really quite astonished!
Bill Eaton & Helen Rogers
Blue Hill Box Company
Quilting Frame Business
After reading "How to Make Tied Comforters and Quilts," my wife got bitten by the quilting
bug, and our lives haven't been the same since. She started
buying craft magazines and began quilting by squares. As
we knew it would, the day arrived when she had enough units
to make a complete quilt. That meant we had to
obtain a quilting frame. The device that was featured in the article required at least two people to manipulate
it, though, so we kept looking until we found a lightweight
frame that could be handled by a single person.
That purchase got us started in not one but two businesses.
Since my wife had been asked to teach a course in quilting
for a local high school's community education department,
we thought it made sense to manufacture and sell lap frames
to the students along with kits to make their first
squares. Some of the folks in the class just made pillows
or wall hangings, but others went on to complete full-sized
quilt tops, and they needed—you guessed
it—quilting frames. So supplying those pieces of
equipment became our second business.
We sold, in all, ten lap frames and 18 quilting frames. Our
expenses totaled $1,212.63 for lumber, nuts and bolts,
ratchets and pawls, shipping boxes, and printing. Our total
profit, including my wife's salary for teaching the class,
came to $1,661.88 in a little over a year of part time work.
And guess what, folks? We plan to do it again ... with a
little difference. Next time we're going to sell ratchets,
pawls, and plans for quilting frames, while continuing to
market our fully assembled lap frames. So if you're a
little bit handy and interested in building a quality
quilting frame, just let me know. [EDITOR'S NOTE:
Quilting enthusiasts will enjoy the article "Jinny Beyer: Master Quilter."]
T.L. "Les" Bourland
Key Impressioning Business
About a year and a half ago—after undergoing
surgery—I was advised by my doctor to take it easy
for several months. As a result, I was forced to find
a way to keep food on the table (and to keep myself
occupied) that required less physical exertion than did my
"old" equipment overhaul job. Remembering all the
successful Bootstrap Businesses discussed in MOTHER
EARTH NEWS, I started thumbing through my collection of
back issues. A letter from James A. Lee 's letter in the July/August 1978 issue set me to wondering what kinds of skills and tools I
already had that could help me bring in some income.
I had worked as a locksmith in my younger years. That
seemed to me to be a good occupation to go back to, but in a less structured way than before. The local smith
enthusiastically accepted my offer to fit new keys to
closed padlocks on a contract basis: He was too busy to get
around to that particular task himself, and he had
hundreds of locks just waiting for my attention.
This good man also agreed to provide pickup and delivery to
my house, supply me with key blanks, and pay me—in
cash—on each visit. Therefore, my "investment"
consisted of my MOTHER EARTH NEWS subscription and my free time. The resulting income was better than what I had been
making at my commercial job before the operation! What's
more, the locksmithing enterprise had side benefits that
were especially valuable to a convalescent. I was able to
choose the hours I worked, could take oft and sit in the
sun if I wished to, and didn't have to ask for days off if
I felt like taking a short trip.
Now, I'm back at a regular full-time job in
automation, but I still do part-time "ghost" key impressioning for the local locksmith. That sideline
occupation, which takes only five or six hours a week,
increased my net income last year by more than 10%. In
addition, I'm writing a paper about the philosophy of
making keys by the impression method that I hope to have
accepted by one of the locksmithing publications in the